Turning a negative into a positive, by Caroline Theobald CBE

I was planning to go into full on ‘rant’ mode this month, but because the sun is finally out and my three month old puppy is a delightful distraction I’ve decided to desist.  Not that I don’t think I have cause, but rather because I wondered what sounding off at a powerful institution would actually achieve?  Probably nothing more than heartache for me and ‘water of a ducks back’ at the institution in question.  It’s not cowardice that’s stopping me, but  respect for others, and a sincere desire to protect a community and a Faith we all hold dear.

 So instead I’ve decided to turn negativity into positive action and crossness into appreciation of some of the good things that happen when individuals take responsibility for taking steps to make the difference that they want to see.  Actions not words was my school motto and when you start looking for positive action there’s amazing how much of it you can find.

 The entrepreneurial community is of course well known for it.  At a recent event for young and wannabe entrepreneurs at Teesside University I was stunned at how willingly a clutch of successful business owners pledged support for entrants to this year’s tenth anniversary of the Entrepreneurs Forum’s  If We Can You Can regional start up challenge.  Bethany Ainsley, founder of the Nouveau Group,  Dean Benson, from VisualSoft, Alice Hall, of Pink Boutique and Rob Mathieson from Ion are all very busy people running high growth and award-winning companies, but they’re prepared to give some all-important time to help the next generation.  Action not words!

And thinking of the next generation I was wearing my North East Initiative on Business Ethics hat recently to get involved with students from two faith schools (Emmanuel College and St Bede’s Lanchester) debating whether living to 100 (the expected life span for millennials) will be a blessing or a curse.  Interesting to note that FT Money has now picked up on the importance of this subject and how a longer life will affect every aspect of society.  ‘The blessings’ won by a narrow margin after an hour of excellent debate informed and supported by industry and university leaders including Brewin Dolphin, BlackRock and the John Locke Institute, another example of busy corporate individuals giving freely of their time.  That’s not to undervalue the time the students themselves put into debate preparation, nor the extra work committed by their teachers  They even spent some of their holidays learning debating hints and tips from Newcastle University debating society.  It was impressive stuff and a commitment to work towards a more sustainable, diverse and inclusive society by the people who’ll be in leadership roles when I’m pushing up daisies.   Our university students too are showing real interest in a sustainable future: Teesside University is mirroring Northumbria’s early lead on this and are all set to establish an ethical and responsible business network for the Tees Valley.  Working together we believe that we can make responsible and ethical business practice one of the USP’s of our great region, a magnet for inward investors and a location of choice for entrepreneurial business and families alike.

I’m not sure what place my puppy has in all this, but I do know that action will keep my grey cells functioning and that walks in the beautiful Northumberland countryside are good for both body and soul.  The joy of puppies also stops me engaging in rants!!

 This article first appeared in The Journal newspaper.